Thursday, December 29, 2005

Displacer Beast, Blink Dog, Beholder...

Had a email from Branko Ruzic, which read:

Dear Ken*,

Just one question: What is a broken comedy? BBC in their submission guidelines say:

Sitcom, broken comedy, sketch shows, family entertainment.

While I'm familiar with other terms (who's not familiar with sitcoms) I've got no idea what brken comedy is

I'm ashamed to say that I too, have no real idea what 'broken comedy' is. I've heard the phrase, alongside stuff like 'visual grammar', and the trick is to nod politely, whilst internally reciting the names of Dungeons and Dragons monsters, and eventually the nasty people will go away.

I suspect though, that it's a description of a slightly stylized type of television comedy, where everything's slightly broken up, by editing, or visual effects, or using that weird acting technique where you stutter a lot, and have long awkward pauses while Social Embarrassment Accrues.

Chris Morris's Blue Jam is supposed to be 'broken comedy' I think, although I doubt he ever referred to it as that himself, and I never saw it, so I don't know. That BBC thing 'Man Stroke Woman' looks like the sort of thing where someone read about 'broken comedy' and said 'hey kids! Let's do it like that! Right here in the barn!', which is why although I like the perfomances, and some of the writing, I would have liked it more if they were just allowed to go for the funny. Like the pool-playing droopy girlfriend, which was very good.

Basically, 'broken comedy' feels like some term someone came up with for a Sunday Supplement, sandwiched between a Nigel Slater article on mud ('Mud! I'm crazy for the stuff! Whether reheated from the previous night, or smeared all over a linen gimp mask, there's nothing nothing so gloopy, or, well, muddy as mud!') and some overpaid hackette whinging about her au paire, and now people think it's some big new thing. But then people are wankers.

Hope that helps.




NOTE: If anyone actually knows what it means (google and wikipedia unusually unhelpful), do please comment below.



*That was my favourite bit, obviously.
 

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

moomin baubles


moominbaubles
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Sourced by the lovely cello - cheers m'dear. Hope everyone had a good christmas. I don't mean just people who read this blog-thing, I mean everyone. That's the kind of guy I am.

My Truro Nan (as opposed, and she usually is, to my London Gran), was laid low Christmas Day by a stomach bug, and was unable to fulfill her usual role of nodding gently to London Gran's stories whilst surreptitiously turning her hearing aid off and going to sleep, a result that usually pleases everyone.

London Gran, you see, is also hard of hearing, but covers it by talking more of less constantly. A Gran set very much on 'transmit' rather than 'receive'. I should add for the record she is a lovely lady, heart of Cockernee gold, terrible childhood, bombs etc.

Anyway, without Truro Nan acting as the immovable object to her irresistable force, KARR to her KITT and so on, I inevitably became the focus of a monologue. I turned in about half an hour later to hear:

GRAN: ... so I've got a grant for the community centre, for computer education, because I said, it's ipod this, and ipod the other and I've never even seen an ipod, so how in this day and age-
ME: I've got an ipod! I can show you!

I dash out of the room.

GRAN: (still going) ... where he thought he was driving that coach to, I've no idea..
ME: (bearing ipod) This is an ipod!*
GRAN: And would you believe, some of the other grants were over a thousand pounds!
ME: This is an ipod!
GRAN: For bingo! Went to our ethnic bretheren of course.**
ME: This is an ipod!
GRAN: Helps their counting skills they say.
ME: This is an ipod!
GRAN: Helps them count their winnings from the council I thought to myself.
ME: This is an ipod!
GRAN: So I found the organiser, scotch he was, lowland accent...
ME: This is an ipod!
GRAN: And it turned out he got married where I was stationed during the war!

PAUSE.

GRAN: (looking at the small white shiny thing I'm holding out in my hand) What's that love?
ME: (also staring down, puzzled) I have no idea. My mind's gone completely blank.





* I hope you'll note I resisted the 'And hoo boy, there's a tale attached to this one!' temptation. Stick to the basics, with grans.
** Please note that my gran attends a west indian church, and is herself kind-of-sort-of-might-be jewish, although we can't be sure, and she'd probably deny it anyway.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

'Lost' explanation

They're all clones.

Genetically altered to allow them to live on a island made of anti-matter (hence all the light/dark stuff), implanted with the memories of the passengers who died in the original crash (hence Locke's legs working again). The weird things on the island are aspects of aliens drawn to the island's ability to exist between planes of existence.

Not that I even care that much, as it's going on too long, but if I'm right, I want my five pounds.


UPDATE: Not quite as funny as links to people rapping angrily about cupcakes and kids' films, but there's a link over at Neil Gaiman's blog to a PDF of the decision in the Pennsylvania "Intelligent Design" case -
here. Important and surprisingly readable, especially as ID/Creationsm has already taken a moronic foothold over here, and needs to be stepped on sharpish with the Firmly Laced Trainer of Fact.

Having wittered on about Lost, I should probably admit that I didn't even watch the second half of last night's episode, as I was distracted during one of the BILLION commercial breaks by the Newsnight special on the end of the oil era, which turned out to be the most gripping television this year. Completely fascinating, and even with some tiny piccolo notes of optimism, which is always welcome. Worth watching the video replay if you have time and broadband.

Fourth edit of the book now, and it's a biggie, as m'agent's American counterpart got back with her notes, including the revelation that if you're reading the thing not knowing what happens at the end (which obviously I do, and m'agent does as well as I told her the end before I wrote it), then there's a big chunk of the middle which doesn't seem to go anywhere at all. And she's quite right. Fortunately it's quite a simple fix, but it will require a few more days hunched over the keyboard if I want to get the thing out to publishers by mid-jan.

Other random stuff:

Royksopp's rather good What Else Is There. Spooky video, and a floating Scandinavian bird* with no eyebrows, marvellous.

That really old trailer for Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian film from ages ago, which I still haven't seen. But then I've only seen one Seinfeld episode, which I must rectify at some point.


* As in 'bint' or 'lady'. Sorry Dave

Monday, December 19, 2005

Quickie

Takes a while to load (or did for me), but well worth the wait.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Well it's true.

Meandering gently through town today, reflecting on the particularly tough hand that seems to have been dealt to many of the people I know in just the past few days: multiple deaths (not the people I know, but deaths of people they knew, if you see what I mean), serious illnesses, trips-of-a-lifetime having to be cancelled due to laughable incompetence, stupid injuries that have turned really quite pointlessly nasty - lots and lots of equally ghastly stuff.

And then I caught my reflection in a shop window in town and thought: 'Good god, this is the best my hair has ever looked.'

I nearly had it cut very short last week, as well. Funny how things turn out.


UPDATE: It's back to normal now. Tch. I must walk the streets as a mortal being once again.

(mutters) Stupid mortal beings....

*kicks stone*

Friday, December 16, 2005

I would star, obviously, so the piece could remain true to my vision.

So my ipod starting working again, hurrah! And last night the extractor fan in the bathroom broke - boo - then this morning I mended it with a paperclip - hurrah!

Honestly, all this technology-based emotional upheaval, it's like an opera, one of those proper ones with horned helmets and trapdoors and shrieking (I don't really know opera).



So I should be happy about the ipod. Except... the thing is, I got back into listening to my minidisc player, which had got pushed to the back of a drawer the minute my shiny new toy arrived. I had discs crammed full of all sorts of random stuff, most of which had terribly vague titles like 'random stuff'*. And as none of the titles come up on the screen, listening to each compilation disc was like a little journey into the past, with the cut-off point being September of last year. It's like 'I heart 2004'.

Only now my ipod's back, all shiny and happy as though nothing ever happened. If this was a film, the minidisc player would be voiced by Claire Forlani, and would currently be putting on a terribly brave voice as it heads back into the darkness, replaced by the sinister white interloper (voiced by Portia de Rossi, who I reckon would be great).

So at this point in the film, I'm in a posh cafe with ipod/Portia, and she's laughing, and I'm trying to smile, but I'm secretly having a slow-motion flashback to all the time minidisc/Claire tried to tell me she loved me but dammit I was just too slow to see it.

I see Billy Crystal as the loudmouthed extractor fan, by the way. And I spent really quite a long time thinking 'Hmm, maybe it should be Jennifer Connolly instead of Claire Forlani, but I think I made the right decision in the end.

Another way of looking at this is that I've just finished the three projects I was working on, and my brain is still spinning without anything to focus on. Until my second hand copy of Mutants Down Under turns up and I can finally start working out the background for post-apocalyoptic anthropomorphic australian ninja... stuff. It's something to do.

* Seriously.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The past few days have been something of a blur.

However, I'm reasonably sure I was in London, and I think I can put some of the events into a kind of order:

Eating lots of free food and drinking lots of free drink, hurrah. Being a writer is good, and interestingly, free booze doesn't give me a hangover. However I am not, technically, a scientist, so this theory may not be entirely factual.

Staying in two unfamiliar and decidedly odd hotels. In the first I only saw one other person the whole time I was there. In the second I ate breakfast beneath a six foot embossed metal picture of a peacock, said breakfast brought to me by a russian lady wearing white cowboy boots. I'm reasonably confident this wasn't a dream. There were also lots of enormous photos of a darkish-skinned geezer with a dodgy afro, pink robes and a beatific grin. if I inadvertently joined a cult, please can someone let me know.

Talking to Maude's Creative Writing group who were funny and smart and made me feel that I was experienced enough to have stuff to tell them, but not so old that I might as well be dead. Although the rising hysteria when I realised I was talking to a group of people who possibly were born on or after nineteen ninety* nearly did me in at one point. I wobbled slightly, but I think I got away with it, although for some reason I did do a pirate impression at one point. Hmm.

Apologies for lack of toy-fu at the moment, just as it was picking up steam again. I have a few things on the go at the moment, and a tax bill of behemothic proportions just over the horizon that is causing me to concentrate, uncharacteristically, on getting some actual work done.

* It's just a shock, that's all. Suddenly, being born in nineteen seventy three and remembering the miners' strike on telly, and Margaret Thatcher makes me feel like I've lived through Vietnam, or the Napoleonic Wars or something. That, and the growing grey patches in my beard are starting to give me an air of venerability I'm not sure I can fully back up.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Toast

My greatest opponent, my legendary adversary. O toast, will you always tempt me with your crumby delights? But I must stand firm. Too often has a once-promising project been derailed though a sudden desire for toast, only for my blood-sugar level to crash, leaving a random collection of letters and symbols where my forehead has suddenly encountered the keyboard.

And yet.... perhaps, o toast, you are the only one who has ever understood me? The controversial glories of Marmite are well-recorded, there is no need to dig up old battlegrounds. As the adverts so clearly expounded: some people quite like Marmite, others don't like it quite so much. A sizeable group of the population doesn't really care either way. But the delights of granary toast with chunky peanut butter and a thin layer of brown sauce... The world is not ready for such marvels. Oh the terrible bitter irony that my arch-nemesis, my greatest foe, is the only one with whom I can share my soul, my inner secrets, my true self.

But perhaps we are not so very different, you and I? Ah that times were not as they are, and my metabolism sturdier. Is it too much to hope that under those rarified circumstances, we could be... comrades? Brothers in arms? Perhaps even... friends?

But I fool myself. You and I, o toast, are locked in a hateful cycle of combat from which we can never escape, doomed to fight together through eternity. I, who am fated to devour you, will become in turn your victim. The roles we play spin and merge and weave. We fall through time, destinies forever entwined.

Bollocks, I'm hungry now.

Ooh, I got an oaty cob from the farmers' market on Tuesday.

Yum yum yu-





a;lsdkfja;ldkjfal;sjfls

Monday, December 05, 2005

What Ori said...

Green Wing is up for the British Comedy people's choice award, which is decided by the public phoning in and voting. If you like Green Wing and have a spare 5 seconds, call 0901 723 02 02 and press 7.

Or text GREEN to 86633.


Green Wing Tactical Voting Team.....


(say it with me)


...ASSEMBLE!


We want that prize. Mainly because we dropped the last one and broke it*. Also, when the GW bunch win anything, they tend to pull down backdrops and fall over and generally give even more entertainment for your comedy pound.


* This bit might disappear later on.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Non-disclosure

Two things people start asking once your blog gets to the mythical 'above four readers' level.

1. 'You're not going to put this conversation in the blog are you?'

and

2. 'I can't believe you didn't put that thing I told you in the blog! Was it not funny enough for your internet friends, eh? Eh? I HATE YOU.'

You can't win. So I had a couple of meetings up in London, one of which I promised I wouldn't write about. The other was with a film company which, in the time it took me to get from Truro to, ooh, about Exeter, suddenly ceased to be a going concern. Oddly enough, you get used to this sort of thing.

Hammersmith pub meet thing was fun, always good to meet new people, especially once I'd sorted out that Dave wasn't cricketing Dave but a different Dave who has a website about snacks. And other things, but I think the snack site is one I've come across before. Or it could have been a dream. And the GW wrap party was great, but tinged with melancholy - loads of people who've worked together for three years and I've got used to being able to wander into the office and talk nonsense with them. And now? Who knows.

Did have this great conversation with one of the GW runners though:

ME: (sympathetically) So this is it for you then? Off to work in retail for a bit now until something else comes along? Bookshops are hiring for Christmas, little tip for you there...
RUNNER (who is barely the age of my laptop, frankly): Actually I've set up my own production company and we're releasing a series of short films over the next few months.
ME: (weakly) Oh.

Google Video has an entire 11min episode of Robot Chicken up. Seen bits of this before, and like every sketch show ever, it's sort of patchy, but does have its moments. Particularly the Cannonball Run outtakes bit at the end, which made the whole thing worthwhile, but possibly you have to be a Cannonball Run fan to enjoy it, which I very much am. Even the second one.

More book edits to do now, looking at getting it out to publishers mid-January (when they're still all fat and woozy from Christmas I suppose), and Top Secret Script Project that I can't talk about. Although I will say that when you're supposed to be talking up a script you've written and end up saying 'I'm bored with that now, how about this thing I came up with in Pizza Express last night? I had to go out and buy a Muji notepad to write it in specially, which I think shows a certain confidence...'*, it can go one of two ways. I'm going to try and transcribe Muji Notebook ramblings into Final Draft now, so we'll find out which way it is.




* I didn't say that word for word. I'd had quite a lot of coffee, so frankly the whole thing's a bit of a blur.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dead Language Squad.... Assemble!

TIny victories against technology: got a reconditioned mobile for twenty five quid into which I could put the old SIM card. And it's about two steps up from my old one, and prettier, all black and silver, like PP's car, only much smaller, and I haven't driven it into two walls.

Off to London. While I'm gone, please head back over to Patroclus's and help her resurrect Pictish. I had a go, to the best of my abilities, but it's not totally impossible someone could make a more useful contribution.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Editing

Patroclus has a pretty sharp post about blog comments, which can exist as a strange wibbly world all of their own (I'm paraphrasing). I'm really more of a lurker than a commenter, unless I actually know the person writing, and even then my comments tend to be dull agreeable stuff along the line of 'They are a good band aren't they?/I haven't watched that film yet, but it sounds great!/Cats are funny!', none of which really move the argument along, so I usually wish I hadn't bothered.

The snow has gone, and it's raining. Fortunately, Matt survived, and Izzy took really a rather fabulous photo - of of those everyday locations turned mysterious and otherworldly through just a change in conditions. Maybe it's just that we don't get much snow down here.

I'm just finishing the first edit of the book - a more enjoyable process than I expected. The manuscript Agent Sarah sent me was marked up in a way Clearly Understandable By Boys: ie lots of marked pages with 'reduce by 30/50/70 per cent'. This means you can cut and paste into a separate document, bring out the metaphorical cold chisels (and occasionally chainsaws) and get it into shape before dropping it back into the book again. Grr, writing manly. The second draft will be, I reckon, about five to eight thousand words shorter, but much much better. I decided to drop two characters entirely, a strangely satisfying feeling.

Agent Sarah had a few comments along the lines of 'um... why does this happen?' to which quite often I had no reply, so out it came. I know Raymond Chandler was once asked during the adaptation of one of his books why a dead chauffeur was in the car being pulled from the lake (lightly referenced in the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang movie - four stars), and he had to admit he couldn't remember.

It's the action scenes that have been trimmed most of all. Mainly because as a hangover from both scripts and, to be honest, D&D, I like to know where my characters are at all times. Which would slow down a far greater work: 'Lizzy moved into the ballroom in a north-easterly direction, holding her dance card in her right hand, keeping more than five feet from the wall, lest she be considered a suitable subject for Wallflower Assimilation, but a good fifteen feet from Mr Darcy's Zone of Grumpiness - see accompanying diagram.'

Although I think maybe I need to write all that stuff first just to get it clear in my mind, then be able to cut to the important stuff. Too many scriptwriters' first books read like a uncommissioned script simply translated into a different medium, so I'm willing to do all I can to avoid that.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Living proof there is such a thing as 'too much spare time'

Oh who am I kidding. These are the coolest things I've ever seen. I'd like the Starscream one for Christmas please.

This would make a fantastic comedy sketch though - someone turning up to a party, transforming into a car or plane.... and then pretty much having to lie there, people gradually putting empty glasses on you and covering you in coats. I suppose you could shout 'Neowm!' every now and then. It's always good to have an excuse.

UPDATE: ipod = dead. Or rather it spineth and it whirrs, but the hard disc it be fecked, giving it a ghastly semblance of half-life. A full restorative will cost approx. £180. It may have to roam the earth whispering 'braaaaiiiinnnnnnns' for an indefinite period.

Have moved on to the final stage of ipod death: a calm acceptance of fate.

And the desire to SMASH STEVE JOBS' BEARDY FACE IN.



And I abhor male aggression, holding it responsible for 98% of the world's ills. Also, I currently have quite a beardy face. See the rank hypocrisy to which I have been brought?

It's not the battery either, though thanks for the suggestion. It's the hard disc: the dark and hate-filled soul of the beast. Its very spinning vexeth me so, like a spinny, vex-making machine.



UPDATE 2: For new readers, here's some backstory, aka 'the earlier, funnier ones'.

the sigur ros thing

Sexydancing

The bullet-point memo version of 'Life of Make-Believe

Stuart Murphy quit, by the way.


UPDATE 3: should I have referred to them as the 'earlier funnier ones'? Was that being a bit presumptuous? Damn, I'm not sure now. I've jumped the shark. Actually I did jump a shark once, a small one, being unloaded into a fish shop in town. Although it was a 'step' rather than a jump*, really. I wish I could go back in time and not do it. Or not do this, now. I'll stop.


* I think I actually jumped it here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Argh

In the last 48 hours:

My internet connection collapsed,
My ipod wiped itself (again),
My mobile phone went into a coma.

After scouring the streets fruitlessly for one of those EMP bombs like on Ocean's Eleven, I was forced to conclude that this was all a coincidence, and not a concerted effort to cut me off from potential sources of employment by the forces of evil. But you have to wonder. Anyway, Matt phoned, and persuaded me to put away the tinfoil hat for the present.

Fortunately my laptop is still working (please stay working laptop), so I thought I might try one of the wi-fi places in town. Which lead to this fabulous conversation in an unnamed bar.

ME: Do you have a wireless broadband thing here?
GIRL: Yeah, but it's shit.
ME: Is is just shit today, or is it always shit?
GIRL: It's always shit.
ME: Right, thanks. Do you know anywhere else in town that has one?
GIRL: That cinnamon cafe place does. You know up the top of town, where it all goes a bit comedy?
ME: Um, yes?
GIRL: Well it's up there.
ME: Ok, ta.

Didn't get to try the cinnamon cafe, although I did pop back to first bar later in the evening, and their wireless broadband thing was, as I'd been warned, shit.

But what does 'it all goes a bit comedy' mean? Weirdly, I sort of know what she meant: lots of health food shops, strange antique shops with sinister dolls and second-hand bookshops specializing in books about the Canadian Navy. But is this the new definition of 'comedy'? Confused.

I need to blunder through the apple website now to see if I can get the ipod to work again. But my heart's not in it frankly. I might just leave its alabaster corpse lying on my bedside table to gather dust, a symbol of all that is glamorous and beautiful, but ultimately flawed, vicious and treacherous in this world.

BLUE CAT LAMENT (Trad.)

Oh ipod, mypod, deadpod
How could you treat me so?
I loved you once.
But now the spinning hard disc of my heart
Has stopped.
And no combination of buttons
Can reset the love I once had for you.
You small white bastard.

Monday, November 21, 2005

paddler


dave and becca 3
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Spent the weekend as support crew to my brother and friends who were doing the 2005 exe descent. 'Support crew' in this instance meaning little more than dropping people off at one end of the river exe, then chasing down after them with a camera trying to take exciting action shots, then loading the boats up at the other end, but it was good outdoorsy fun of the kind I never normally have.

Most exciting bit for me, tragically enough, was driving back from Exeter to Falmouth, as the furthest I've ever driven before is to St. Ives and back - never even driven out of Cornwall before. Anyway, getting an elderly VW Polo with a huge canoe on the roof up to 80mph on a dual carriageway turned out to be slightly enjoyable.

Other fun moment: explaining to Becca, Dave's co-paddler what an 'RPG' is (in this context, a Rocket Propelled Grenade' - we were talking about dreadful/enjoyable Ridley Scott movies Black Hawk Down) - only to discover Becca to be a Lieutenant and helicopter navigator in the Royal Navy. I thought the dissertation she'd been talking about was in 'Tourism'. Actually it turned out to be 'Terrorism'. Dammit.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Toy-Fu 38 - Not There



If this makes no sense to you at all, go here for some backstory. It'll probably still make no sense at all, mind.

Steve and the other one back tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lost

Did anyone notice the reference to 'a paper company in Slough' in last week's Lost? The producer JJ Abrams is a big fan of The Office, so it's nice to see that polar bears, giant invisible monsters and Gareth can all exist in the same world.

Hurrah for crossovers.

Mind you, I'd drop Lost like a fake london pasty if there was anything even slightly better on. But there isn't.


UPDATE: after a query about how Office co-writer Stephen Merchant appeared on GW, I guessed with the utter wrongness that has become the defining characteristic of this blog, that he had sat through an audition.

In fact Rob, GW co-writer and sometime Vogue model corrects me thusly:

Just for the record, Mr Merchant did not audition for the part. Other people did, but didn't quite get it right. Rather belatedly, somebody then came up with the SM idea. His agent asked for a script to be sent so they could decide whether or not to do it, but as it was now a day before filming, it wasn't looking hopeful. Shortly afterwards, however, there was a call to say forget about sending the script, he'll do it anyway. Hurrah.

Hurrah indeed! Even more reason to think well of SM. Maybe don't hug him on the street or anything, but if you're in the queue for the cinema in front of him, maybe pay for his ticket, discreetly, and just whisper 'this one's for the Wing'. Or similar.

He was blimmin' brilliant in Extras as well. All hail the Merchant.

Monday, November 14, 2005

V&A pics


lion on tomb
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.


I really liked this lion, who was sitting on the corner of a german duke's* tomby bit. One of his wings had fallen off, which was sad, but still left him with one more wing than most other lions. So I wouldn't imagine he gets teased too badly at parties.



more_statues
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.

The other bit, as you see, really does look like a supervillain's lair. Most odd. I managed to sneak a photo of a closed off bit as well**, which is always satisfying. I read about someone researching a movie once who was shown round a large Natural History Museum in the States, culminating in a huge glass tank in which something was quietly dissolving in acid. When they winched up the chains, it was revealed to be the skeleton of a rhinoceros. Although possibly I imagined that. I do read quite a lot in my dreams, which I'm sure you're not supposed to do.

Martha Wainwright was great as well, obviously. Others have commented on the general chick-heavy aspect of the show, which I personally had no problem with. However, Sigur Ros did manage to chuck in a small marching band, so it's a tricky one. Martha may have won on points, with an excellent cover of Tower of Song. Although I liked that Sigur Ros song that started off quietly? And built to a crescendo?*** With a bloke singing in a high-pitched voice?

Icelandic indie band humour there.

Went to see Howl's Moving Castle this evening, which was sadly very disappointing. Loads of stuff we've already seen in Spirited Away, and an ending so cheesy, the entire cinema dissolved into giggles. As I left, all I could hear was the eerie susurration caused by hundreds of people all saying 'sickly' at the same time, which was an odd experience.

As promised, here's that song from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one of those bits of music that should cause dogs to stop barking and sparrows to rush home to spend more time with their families. Don't tell anyone though, or I'll get into trouble.



*Monument in bronze of Ernst, Duke of Saxony and Archbishop of Magdeburg (b. 1464; d. 1513) by Peter Vischer (d. 1529) in Magdeburg Cathedral dated 1497.

And then it says: '1904-55'. Don't know why.

** Which I forgot to put up. It's not that great a photo anyway. It'll be better in your imagination. Most things are.

*** Which is impossible apparently - see cello's note in comments.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Way too many brackets in this one.

The V&A was marvellous, particularly the random collection of one-for-one plaster copies of stuff like Michaelangelo's David, and that other one, and big pillars and stuff, all piled up like the lair of a successful supervillain. I got told off for touching some iron shutters (to be fair, I had misread a sign which said more information was behind, and thought it meant behind the shutters, and heaved and heaved and heaved only to realize a) they were wired shut b) the sign meant there was more info on the wall behind me and c) I had displeased a man. He was miles away too. Most alert. I managed to saunter past him with an insouciant sort of 'yes yes, I am a prince here on a visit and will forgive you your little misunderstanding'. I wish we still had small denominations of paper money, as I would have like to have tucked a pound note into his top pocket with a wink, but I only had a twenty-pound note or four pence in change, so never mind).

There's a machine that lets you design a fabric, and then email the design to yourself. It looked better on the machine, but to be fair a party of London school-children wanted a go after me, and as they were armed with KNIVES AND CRACK VIALS, I rushed the end a bit. Still.

The Ros (as nobody has ever called them) made a most satisfactory noise. My only worry about Sigur Ros is that yer main chappie sings either in Icelandic, or in a made-up language called Hopelandish. Which means you don't have even a fighting chance of knowing what he's singing about. Staralfur, for example, which sounds like this*: i.e. a wondrous soaring heart-breaking slice of pure otherworldly joy. The lyrics are:

blá nótt yfir himininn

blá nótt yfir mér

horf-inn út um gluggann

minn með hendur

faldar undir kinn

hugsum daginn minn

í dag og í gær

blá náttfötin klæða mig í

beint upp í rúm

breiði mjúku sængina

loka augunum

ég fel hausinn minn undir sæng

starir á mig lítill álfur

hleypur að mér en hreyfist ekki

úr stað – sjálfur

starálfur

opna augun

stírurnar úr

teygi mig og tel (hvort ég sé ekki)

kominn aftur og alltalltílæ

samt vantar eitthvað

eins og alla vegginna


Their website does at least translate the song title as 'singing elf'**, which is sort of helpful. Anyway, I've been to Norway twice, and though it's not Iceland, it's sort of close, and I like Abba as well, so I think I've worked out the translation of the lyrics. And I have to say, I liked it more before, as it turns out to be actually rather prosaic:

ooh those bloody singing elves (actually 'staring elf')

never one around when you want one

then three come along at once

and you don't see white trollshit any more

what's all that about?

lembas bread?

lembas?

and bread?

LEMBAS BREAD!?

I ask you

my mum right, she leaves a candle out for the singing elves ('staring elves')

when she goes out

but this is wise, for my uncle bjorn, he once failed to leave a candle out for the singing elves ('staring elves') and their keening took on a sinister pitch which drove him to eat his own ears ('staring took on an increasingly Orianne-like narrowing quality which drove him to gouge his own eyes out with a sharpened puffin')

we eventually found him in the snow
quite dead

those singing elves bringing to his face a curious mix of joy and hopeless fear (same)

so probably a good idea with the candles my mother is having

also, all our natural hot springs smell of egg

but that is due to the sulphur (which occurs naturally in the water)
a fact we all learn at a very young age

so fart jokes are considered the province of the very young and the mentally unsound

which is probably best.




Or something like that.




* Yes I've linked to that song before. And it's in The Life Aquatic, that end bit when they finally find the shark. I've got that bit of music from Ferris Bueller as well, when Cameron's staring at the Impressionist painting (is it a Monet?). I can put that up at some point (the song, not the Monet - the song's the Dream Academy cover of a Smith's song) if anyone wants. It made me happy to find it.

** Hang on, as has been pointed out, it's actually 'staring elf' - an easy mistake to make if your attitude to pretty much everything is 'oh well, that'll do'. However in my defence, Icelandic singing and staring are quite similar (they usually do both at the same time, because of trolls, which are hard to spot, but easily distracted by four-part harmonies). Alternative translation has now been added above. Sorry for any confusion.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Completely random now.

Continuing the theme of slightly missing Hallowe'en stuff, here's a short story about two narrative universes that never should have met.* Scroll down to footnote after you've read, otherwise it'll spoil it.

Over here is a Nesbit-themed pen and paper RPG, which I suppose is somewhat.. specialist, but there might be someone out there tired of dungeon-bashing who fancies a go at something more literary. Faded Edwardiana is the new black, you know. With a sort of wrought-iron overlay, and bits of ivy everywhere. And brass fittings.

And here's the most up to date (no it's not, ignore that) in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula sequence, which presents a parallel history of the world in which Dracula survived Bram Stoker's novel and went on to make vampirism not just socially acceptable, but desirable to boot. Throw in countless (mhah) pop culture references and it's literary crossover heaven. - Castle in the Desert: Anno Dracula 1977

Right, off to see Sigur Ros and Martha Wainwright, attend a lecture by Anthony Horowitz, pop into the V&A and Science Museum (aliens exhibition - wheee!) and discuss the next step in editing the Cabinet with Agent Sarah**. I think she plans on distracting me with pizza, then sliding a manuscript covered in red pen across the table. As a plan, it has every chance of succeeding.






* If you can't work it out: Peanuts and H.P. Lovecraft.
** Not all on the same day.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Great animation

Not Hallowe'eney, or dancey, but slightly monsterey and definitely good.

Had The Mighty Evans bringing her London ways to Cornwall this weekend, adapting admirably to the, um, gentler pace of life down here with only the occasional murmur along the lines of "Why are the queues here so slooooooow!?"

And, after having made an ill-advised late-night trip to the bathroom.

"There were one, two, three, four FIVE SLUGS IN THERE!"

Which unfortunately was hard to take seriously, as it sounded a bit like something from Sesame Street. She had a point though. And she barely screamed at my driving at all, which was impressive.

Am I the only person who didn't know the inspiration for the wardrobe from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" actually came from a Nesbit short story called The Aunt and Amabel? And therefore, in continuity terms, might well be the same wardrobe? Intertextual crossover children's literature ahoy!

Neither did I know that Puddleglum was a reference to the Aeneid (see further down in the same article). Fortunately the editing process on the Cabinet begins in earnest this week, so I get to fold all this stuff back in (what with Marsh-Wiggles and Wardrobes and indeed some Nesbit creations making cameo appearances). Just talked to m'colleague Alex who's also on his first kid's book (though his is now with a publisher, well done) and he's on his fifth edit. Crikey.

While I'm doing random stuff, I was delighted to see that Michael Swanwick's seminal genre-skewering fantasy novel The Iron Dragon's Daughter has finally been reprinted in the SF Masterworks series. I'm bad at synopsising novels, so I'll just say that if you like Neil Gaiman's stuff, you'll love this, as it includes all the worn-thin trappings of fantasy (dragons, elves, magic swords) and twists them into something rich and dark and strange. Funny too, in a bleak, icy sort of way.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Spookah

New York-based* satirical website Gelf Magazine has a nice** piece on GW. I get to quip in it, which is a bonus. I always wanted to quip, and never really had the chance before. It'll be interesting to see how the DVD goes down over there, as the word-of-mouth was pretty good, even if, like here, the ratings weren't particularly impressive.

Slightly too late for Hallowe'en, but here are some great spooky animations. This one's my favourite.

I forgot to say: talk with the writing group last week was fun - hopefully I haven't put them off entirely. I've wandered in to talk to that course about four times, and interestingly, the talk itself gets shorter and shorter each year as I realize I know less and less about anything. Next year I might just go in, shrug helplessly, and go out again.

On a similar note: congratulations to Katy Moon (alumnus of last year's course), who finally got her job as editorial assistant of Inside Soap, which if you're a bit literal-minded, might be the best title for a magazine ever.


* I think.

** Of course it's possible they're being satirical.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Not sponsored by anyone.

In case anyone read Tess Alp's Guardian article and had visions of me reclining on an enormous Lego throne, blowing my nose on first edition Wodehouses supplied by foxy Amazon ladies, any plugs here are purely enthusiasm-based. Also, that would be a weird vision to have, frankly. Get some fresh air or something.

UPDATE: Interesting interview with Arthur Mathews, in which he talks about The Day Today, Father Ted, Big Train, and the vastly-underrated Hippies.

EQUALLY RANDOM UPDATE: U2 (ish) sing 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes'

AND ANOTHER: Truly excellent song by Jeremy Warmsley gets an excellent video.

If you've ever seen a taxi rank doing that weird shuffling 'move forward a foot at a time' thing when the car at the front has gone and wondered what would happen if the participants got their timing a little off, I can now tell you, having witnessed such a glorious occurrence this weekend on the Moor (Falmouth's town centre).

1. A loud crunching sound as the front bumper of Taxi 5 encounters the rear bumper of Taxi 4.
2. Taxi Driver 4 (burly middle-aged man) leaps out of his car.
3. Taxi Driver 5 (burly middle-aged man) leaps out of his car.

But then, as if to remind me why I live in Cornwall:

4. Taxi Driver 4 adopts the stance (including side-to-side head-bobbing motions) of a Latino woman from a film, and wags a finger in the air, chanting 'Oh no you di'nt!'.
5. Taxi Driver 5 shrieks with embarrassment and mock-anguish, flapping one hand in the style of the deceased Larry Grayson, and clapping the other one over his mouth in exaggerated horror.
6. Both participants scream with delight, eventually collapsing into each others arms in hooting, weeping laughter, wiping tears from eyes.

Almost as cheering as when, many years ago, a stout Cornish policeman told a friend of mine, then responsible for a one-man Falmouth-based crime spree, that if he had to fill in any more forms due to this person's idiocy, he (the policeman) would take him (the wannabe crim) "round the back of the station, and smash 'ee up." The tone of regret and concern in said policeman's voice and manner had just as much of an impact as the threat itself, and the aforementioned childish buffoon quickly mended his ways and now works for a respected publishing company.

Happy endings all round.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Knitted Yoda

Worth its own post, I thought. More up here by boyknitsworld.

Similar stuff over at craftster, which might inspire a few people to do something productive now the longer nights are drawing in. Hopefully including me, now that my adventures on World of Warcraft are tending towards the 'listless'. Or I could go outside, but that way madness lies. And dead mice, currently strewn across the driveway like the aftermath of some kind of rodenty gang war.

Dreamquest of Unknown Numpty

Well done Danny Stack (he's not the numpty by the way), whose short film 'On The Death Of His Wife' has been selected as short of the week on the C4 film website.

I love all this DIY stuff - a few years ago, the standard advice for young comedy writers was 'write some stuff for radio'. At the time, they were talking about Weekending, only I hated it, so I didn't bother. Nowadays, I think you'd be better off making your own stuff and podcasting it - which will lead to an astonishing amount of ghastliness, obviously, but I like to think the good stuff will shine forth from the dungheap. But then I am inclined to positive thinking to the point of imbecility, so again, who knows?

It's gems like that I'll be sharing with the Pro. Writing group later today. Maybe I should charge an entrance fee or something.

Falmouth is currently plastered with home made posters for lost animals. Currently missing: an albino ferret and a parrot. I like to think they've teamed up to fight crime, but who knows? A couple of days ago I saw a poster for a found blue persian cat, which reminded me of why I attach such significance to blue cats in the first place...

Cornwall still has a number of residual rituals from the old Celtic tribal system. One of these is that on a boy's thirteenth birthday, he is sent into the corner of the playing field where the gypsies once killed a child*. Wearing shorts and a Supertramp T-shirt**, my bare legs were whipped with nettles, and I was forced to drink Cripplecock cider until I fell to the ground, foaming at the mouth, pupils like whirling supernovae.

Traditionally, at this point, one's totem animal would appear. Ben Fisher had seen a dolphin. Daniel 'Gibbon' had seen a... well, enough said. David Eddy saw a pair of rather elegant wolfhounds, annoyingly. I however, saw an animated blue cat. Not the one from the Magic Roundabout film (the old one), as I've never seen it, but a bit like it only different. It winked at me, whispered 'when applicable, upgrade to OS Tiger - the Spotlight app is well worth the eighty quid alone' and then vanished.

Nice to see a poster for a found animal though - usually the other way around. Then, a couple of days later I saw a poster for a 'lost' blue persian cat, just round the corner from the 'found' cat poster.

Which reminded me of why I attach such significance to blue cats in the first place. Cornwall still has a number of residual rituals... wait, I've done that bit.

Basically, about a minute later I did a classic comedy double take and called the number on the poster, giving the owner directions as to where said pet could be found. And above me, I felt my totem spirit smile. In a catty sort of way.

It was right about the Spotlight thing though - sometimes it finds the bit you're looking for before you've even finished typing the word. Marvellous.

Just thought I'd better get all this out of my system now.





*Obviously they didn't really. In fact no gypsies ever came that far south-west, so at school we barely had an idea of what gypsies actually were. Popular opinion had it that they were a strange alien race, made up of whirling gears and strange lights, who set fire to bushes and took off their faces to reveal a lizard underneath. But then we might have mixed up Religious Education class with late night repeats of V. Regardless, I suspect all schools in the UK have a corner where 'gypsies killed a child'.

** Model's own, sadly. And just after I remembered this, I saw an ad for a Best Of Supertramp CD. How strange. But somehow... logical.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tum te tum...

I'm at that weird stage when I'm waiting for the results of about five meetings, which probably means I'll only ever hear from about two of them. Tch. At which point I've got bored with World of Warcraft. Damn. And there's no good comics around these days either. Harrumph.

On the plus side, I managed to pick up the dictionary of imaginary places for under a fiver in a nearby bookshop, then headed over to Jess Nevin's site to see that the book version of his Fantastic Victoriana site is getting very close to completion - over here.

And then after an interesting debate with Todd over at twitch film, I was put onto a writer called Charles Williams, of whom I had never previously heard. So that's all quite promising.

Talking to Agent Sarah about editing the Cabinet - the good news is it's mostly cutting down rather than having to put in new stuff (although I'm sure there'll be some of that too). And the last thirty or forty pages, which I was a bit worried about, as I was a bit tired, and felt that it was going in a slightly different, darker direction to the rest of the book, turned out to be her favourite bit. In fact, I have an inkling (unintentional quite complicated pun) that the book may work better if the middle gets slapped about a bit, and brought in line with the end*. Probably won't be dressed up in a bow and tarted about publishers until mid-January now.

The only wasp in the tincture is that m'flatmate gets home tomorrow, after being away for a pleasingly long time, having just texted me a list of surfaces she'd like me to clean for her arrival. This did not Go Down Well, and I suspect there will be Words.

If any millionaires with second/third/fourth homes in Cornwall, specifically around the Falmouth area, are reading this, and would like to offer me cheap/free** housing for a while, I would be prepared to put aside my normally militant views on cornish second-home buying. I will also try and crowbar your name into a script somewhere but I can't guarantee anything.

I am quite clean and tidy. Hence the sudden onrush of what can only be described as 'tetchiness'.


*Grrr. Writing is manly job. Off to fight gerunds now.***

**You don't get if you don't ask.

*** Like in that very good Woody Allen short story, the name of which escapes me.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Strange worries

Next week I'll be talking to the Falmouth School of Art's Professional Writing Course, because it's only down the road. This will be, I think, the third time I've talked to the newies on the course, and I just went back and had a look at last years talk, and remembered this bit:

"What makes Henry laugh is other people’s pain. ‘I was talking with a friend about slapstick and he fell and hurt his ankle. I was crying with laughter. I like well-timed actual pain."

Ooh.

I never did anything about this before, because it's like finding a horrible photo of yourself, and pointing it out to people, trying to explain that it's the lighting, really, it is.

But as some of the new people may go back and check on what I said last year, to make sure they're getting their money's worth and not being fobbed off with yesterdays tea boiled, I thought I might put this in context*. Also, I wouldn't want them to think they're going to be meeting a monstrous tosser of the lowest order.

What actually happened was this: when I lived in Canterbury, a very good friend of mine who gave me my first break (he used to work for the types who make Bob the Builder) came to visit. We headed out for a pint, and on the way (so no drinking yet) had really quite a profound and rather abstract conversation about the art of slapstick. At which point m'colleague fell rather spectacularly off the pavement, disappearing from my field of view entirely.

Now I don't normally laugh at people hurting themselves. I promise I don't. It's a small-minded sort of thing to do which would put me in the company of people who read mens magazines with three-letter titles, a place I don't want to be. But when you're talking about slapstick, and someone executes a perfect pratfall, one has to show one's appreciation somehow. Almost immediately however, it became apparent that my good chum had actually hurt his ankle quite badly and was now in quite a lot of pain. Which made it worse, as I ended up with the sort of nervous giggle practiced by lunatics and over-sugared schoolchildren. So things were, frankly, a bit frosty. Until I bought him lots of drinks and apologized profusely.

He went to work for Aardman later on, and I had another drink with him much later, so I think we're okay now.

Anyway, I wouldn't want the new people to walk into the room thinking I'm a socially-retarded monstrous tosser. Obviously they may walk out thinking exactly that, according to how the talk goes, but that's their right.

Oddly enough, I did some freelance work as a mob hitman in the early nineties, killed a lot of innocent people in a variety of horrible, gruesome ways. Never lost a nights sleep over it.

Funny how the human mind works.

Ner-night.



* Also, I made less money this year, which has sent the graph all to crikey. And yet I'm having more important meetings. Perhaps my talk should be titled: 'I have literally no idea what I'm doing'.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

You can't keep a good zombie meme down.

Unless of course you SHOOT IT IN THE HEAD.

Zombie Snot Worm

The Onion frets that Pittsburgh is 'Unprepared For Full-Scale Zombie Attack'

And finally: Frank Lloyd Wright vs. Zombies

sleep now

I have written a book!!!*

It has eighty two thousand, three hundred and seventeen words, distributed fairly evenly amongst twenty chapters.

It contains sort-of-zombies.

It's a children's book (with sort-of-zombies in it).

And pirates.

And lots of things that fly.

I had that feeling when I finished it (well, finished the first draft, there's lots of reworking to do on it), of 'no idea if anyone else will like this at all, but this is definitely the book I meant to write'. This is a good feeling.

I seem to write about tea quite a lot.

I use the word 'fluttered' five times in the book.

Also the word 'vortices' once, which I was quite proud of. Although I had to check the spelling.

People 'narrow their eyes' in my book quite a lot (again, five times in total - perhaps they're annoyed at all the fluttering). Clearly I am at all times trying to write scenes for Ori. I worried about whether I should have a scene where all the people un-narrow their eyes, lest people think they squint for the remainder of the story, but on balace, I think I was right not to write this scene.

I'm going to have a cup of tea now. And then a nice lie-down.


*apologies to JonnyB

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

It's like a metaphor, mixed with another metaphor.

Kt pointed me in the direction of these little beauties, which aren't just zombies, but specific Original Dawn of the Dead zombies. They must have taken ages to do, which makes it funnier. Go to the link for more.

Spent the weekend at Pennyfeather Towers, where I was admirably looked after by PP himself. In return, when an asthma inhaler fell out of his bag (I didn't know he had asthma) I pointed at it and shouted 'Hahahaha! You fat wheezer!'. I still don't know why I did that. Apologies, PP.

Pennyfeather Towers is now equipped with a bathroom of astonishing elegance and beauty, and I don't usually notice these things. This time I had to though, as it cost about a million pounds. Fortunately, the new door was put on about an hour before I got there, otherwise it might have been a bit weird. Said door however, bore a faint resemblance to the Tardis, and t'was but the work of a moment to persuade PP to get it painted blue, although he drew the line at a flashing orange light and a flush that made a terrifying shrieking grinding noise, which was a shame. If you look to the left of the door, you can see PP's violin, which is HUGE! I think he was tricked.

The reason I was up in Canterbury wasn't just to see PP's bathroom though, fabulous though it is. M'esteemed colleague in booksellery, Paula, is selling up and travelling around the world, so it was lovely to see her, and I hope she has a great time. I'm also mourning my sudden lack of a source of free pre-publication proofs, but there we are. I'll just have to come to terms with this difficult time.

Meetings were good, particularly when the person I met told me how a lot of people high up at the BBC 'really hated Green Wing', information imparted with the air of one who has casually rolled a hand grenade into a noodle bar. I think said person may have expected me to turn pale with shock, or sink slowly from my chair, clutching feebly at the air with one hand, but I knew that anyway, so I got to shrug and say 'Tch', which I like saying. To be quite honest, I only really write with the intention of pleasing four people: 1) me, 2) my best mate Sass, 3) her brother Matt and 4) Stephen Fry. As long as three out of the four of use are happy, that's really all I need. Not that I know how Mr. Fry felt about Bob the Builder, but he's never rung me up and said he hated it.

To digress into a potentially useful bit of writing information for a second (it'll be over quickly, and will never happen again), one strange regularity of meetings is that the thing you got called into discuss turns out to be of no interest to the person at all. They will then say 'so do you have anything else you're putting together?' in a casual manner, often employing some deliberately casual business as they do so, so as stirring a cup of tea, or half-heartedly leaning out of the window to shoot an albatross.

When this question is raised, NEVER EVER SAY 'NO'. I cannot stress this highly enough. If necessary, look at the noticeboard or the manufacturers name on your coffee mug and MAKE UP A STORY. Some writers create treatments specifically as a trojan horse, to sneak themselves under the wire, from which point they can then mention, with a similar casualness, the project close to their hearts to which they have devoted every second of the last five years. If they had mentioned this project first, they never would have got in the door. Strange but true.

While I think of it, Josh Friedman has some notes on what to wear to Hollywood script meetings. Useful stuff.

Nearly nearly nearly finished the book. The last chapter is crawling past, even though I know what I want to do with it. It's the equivalent of one of those huge action scenes in a film that lasts three minutes, but takes five months to film - I'm down to five hundred words a day, compared to around two thousand when I was in St. Ives. They're quite important words though, so it's worth getting them in the right order, I think.







* Makes sense. The Doctor dresses well (usually including a scarf), has lots of attractive female companions which whom he never sleeps**.

** Anyone who has know me for a reasonable amount of time, please feel free to make your own jokes.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

wish list

I'm off up North (London) for more meetings. Bearing in mind I have a cold that makes me feel like I'm underwater and prone to mild hallucinations, it might be fun.

In the meantime, here's a brief list of stuff I would love to come out on DVD. Apart from the obvious.

How Do You Want Me?

All Quiet On The Preston Front

A Bit Of Fry And Laurie

Partners

UPDATE: now with the top secret, long awaited name...

And finally, a boxed set of everything ever done by Jack Rosenthal

UPDATE 2: greta's blog is blimmin' brilliant. The cartoons made me laugh through my nose, which was unfortunate, what with my cold.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

This story can be independently verified.

Last night, out for a meal in Falmouth with Person I have known since I was about fourteen, and shall henceforth be referred to as Best Mate (B.M.). She is an girl, and there is a candle between us as we peruse the menus, but romance is not in the air. We have been friends for too long. In many ways we are like one of those nineteen-fifties married couples who sleep in seperate beds with one foot on the floor at all times. I don't usually drag her into the blog thing as she doesn't read it, and so has no means of correcting 'mistakes', but she comes out of this one rather well, I feel

ME: I think I might be mildly autistic, you know.
B.M.: What was your first clue?
ME: The Dungeons and Dragons.
B.M.: Yup.
ME: Also I fear change.
B.M.: We all fear change. What are you having?
ME: Um, chicken kiev, I think.
B.M.: You had that last time.
ME: I know. I didn't like it very much.
B.M.: Have something else then.
ME: I will. I'll have something else.

We look at menus for a while.

ME: We could open a theme restaurant for autistic people. It would be called 'Quantusnevercrash' (see UPDATE below). And the forks would always be in EXACTLY THE SAME PLACE.
B.M.: Hee.
ME: Hoo. And-
B.M. That's enough now.
ME: Mmm.
B.M.: Also, you don't recognize me in town, even when I'm jumping up and down and shouting your name.
ME: You go on tip-toe and murmur. It's not the same. But I am quite bad at... you know, the big picture. I'm better at details.
B.M.: We don't talk about you enough.
ME: You're right. Sorry.

I'm holding the menu at a low angle, trying to decide what to have.

ME: It's weird though, with the absent-minded thing. Sometimes it's, you know, not that funny. Today I was on the phone, and I kept trying to take my glasses off, but I wasn't wearing any, so I was just poking myself slowly and repeatedly in the eye.*
B.M.: Oh dear god.
ME: I know.
B.M.: No, you've set fire to your menu.

I have indeed set fire to the menu. I stare at it.

B.M.: Probably blow it out.
ME: I'll blow it out.

I blow it out. There is a large hole in the menu, and an unpleasant chemical smell is drifting across the restaurant, not adding to the other patrons' enjoyment of the meal, for which I feel guilty. The waitress appears.

WAITRESS: Are you ready to- oh.
ME: Your menus are terribly flammable. It's probably quite dangerous.
B.M.: Also, 'sorry'.
ME: Yes, sorry.
WAITRESS: Are you ready to order?
B.M.: I'll have the rack of lamb.
ME: Chicken kiev please.

I didn't like it very much. But I did tip quite heavily.

UPDATE: 'Non-U' (good reference) points out - 'Psst. No 'U' In Qantas. A true autist would know that so I think you're ok.
Otherwise, as you were.' Thanks Non-U.


*In fairness, I was arranging a meeting with the Head of Comedy for quite a large broadcasting channel**. But still.

** No I'm not, I got confused. But the person I'm meeting is much better than that and has produced some comedy stuff I liked very much indeed. Also, I haven't slagged this chap off on the interweb, which is a bonus.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Butterflies OF DEATH

If anyone remembers me asking for wind-up butterflies quite a long time ago, you may be pleased to know (or you may not care less) that although a number of butterfly sources were discovered, the scene in question was actually filmed with a different papery item entirely. I've seen the scene, and it works fine - there were some concerns that the effect I was after wouldn't have quite worked anyway: the effect being so random and fast, it would have been over before you knew what had happened. The amount of thought that goes into these things is slightly worrying, frankly.

Anyway, The Mighty Evans (now promoted at her workplace, so if you work at the BBFC and you've recently had a madwoman in a paper crown and a sceptre made of Cheesy Wotsits* ordering you to bring her coffee in a 'gold mug', that'll be why. She'll settle down soon), has sourced a tiptop and highly reputable supplier of windup paper butterflies, that seem likely to satisfy any reasonable person's desire to fill envelopes or books with propellable erstatz insects that, when opened, release themselves into the air in a startlingly violent manner likely to cause at the very least, a serious cardiac arrest. The suggestion is that you use these for advertising, but unless you're advertising those paddles you rub together and stick on people's chests whilst shouting 'CLEAR!', I think it could backfire.

Still, great work, the Evans - may your new role as Queen of Films last long and get you lots of perks and that.


*if you bite the ends off and lick them, they stick together - I once made a ET-style long Wotsit Finger at school lunch break and turned round to David Eddy, pointing it at him whilst doing a very creditable 'phoooooone hoooooome' bit. D.E. then flicked it with a fingernail, sending the ET Wotsit Finger to oblivion and leaving me with A) a hitherto-excellent impression suddenly weakened by the lack of an appropriate visual backup and B) no lunch. D.E. is now married and lives in Liverpool, where he presumably STILL RUINS PEOPLE'S LIVES.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Aardman Warehouse Fire




Terribly sad news that a fire has destroyed warehouse containing Aardman's Animation archive. Fortunately no-one was hurt, and Nick Park has downplayed the incident, which keeps it in perspective (especially when the news is full of the ghastly earthquake in Pakistan), but a great shame nevertheless.

Having done some work for Aardman's Planet Sketch show, I was delighted to able to go into the company's HQ (unscathed, as far as I know) where they keep various classic Aardman characters in reception, in glass cabinets that now have my smeary fingerprints all over them - sorry guys. I'm hoping some of these models will have been out of the warehouse at the time, as there's something truly magical about seeing the original character models of Wallace, Gromit and the others, and realizing just how much hard work and imagination went into bringing them to life.

On the plus side, the Wallace and Grommit film seems to be doing fantastically well, despite/because of being wildly parochial with puns to groan at and and old-fashioned ethos of slightly ramshackle British craftsmanship running throughout. Chaps, I salute you. And I know it's not Aardman, but can I just apologise again for thinking that the Corpse Bride was CGI? I had a number of corrective emails on the subject a while ago, and I really am very sorry.

I just hope the tortoise made it.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

context zombies and giant wooden robots

Okay, everyone should have seen that 'Shining recut as a chick flick' trailer thing by now.

But have you seen the other trailer from the same project? Looks at first glance like a high-speed zombie movie, but if you can guess the actual film in less than ten seconds, you may award yourself a mini-mars bar, or piece of fruit of equivalent size.

UPDATE: But not if you look at the filename, which would give it away rather. I agree too, they lost marks by putting on glowing eyes, making it a B+ rather than an A.

From making light

Also, from the ever reliable screenhead, what happens when rival viking soundsystems clash. The fact that I never thought of a Viking/Transformer crossover has me kicking myself.*

Back from St. Ives, where on the last day, I was shat on by a seagull. Only a bit, and I think it was rather affectionately done, to be honest. Nearly finished the book now, probably just a couple of days finishing the last chapter or so, but the seagull thing is of greater interest, I suspect. I was going to hang on for a couple more days, but the security light opposite the flat ('securing' a shop that sold only frying pans and fishing rods, which makes sense I suppose) was misfiring, and the strip of extra window high up in the wall that couldn't be closed off meant for a series of nights sleep best described as 'not great'. Also. people travelled all the way from the South-East to argue outside said window late at night. Every morning I would stumble out, sleepy-eyed, tripping over bits of thrown pasty and dropped 't's. Gah.

I'm such a moaner - I had a great time, and it's a brilliant way of getting a book finished. Cold turkey from broadband had an interesting effect as well: played half an hour of World of Warcraft, only to say to myself 'But... this is just a game! It doesn't mean a thing!' So I read a book instead.***


And for ye of little faith, here's the bbc link to the crocodile story. Mere words cannot express my joy at the statement that 'according to experts' the 2ft caiman is 'probably an unwanted pet'. As opposed to... actually I genuinely can't figure out what else it could possibly be. And what experts? Crocodile experts? Things-in-the-wrong-place experts? Handy when you've lost your car keys. 'Where did I - well, over there, obviously'.

UPDATE 2;

seagull
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.

I bet it was this one that shat on me mere minutes after I took this pic. You can tell by the look on his face....






*With a small plastic leg with one wheel on it, obviously. That I can't work out how to restore to its proper position without breaking.**

** Transformer humour. Jesus.

*** Admittedly the book in question was the Monsternomicon supplement for the Iron Kingdoms sourcebook for the V3.5 edition of D&D, but the thought was there. And when I was away I read the Pursuit of Love and listened to the Balanescu Quartet, so leave it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Breaking cover for the crocodile thing

My faith in human nature, always somewhat shaky at the best of times, has been further weakened by the discovery of a small crocodile in a Cornish lake.

Not because someone clearly thought their pet newt was getting suspiciously large and toothy and wanted to give it freedom and as many swans as it could eat: I find this eminently laudible, and swans scare me. The alternative was probably ending up as a handbag.

What upset me was that the woman who reported this to the media said that she saw what she first took be a log floating in the lake, which then went on to wink at her, so she 'chucked a stone at it, and it vanished'.

Now, mundane existence is called that for a reason. It really is, on the whole, unutterably dull. So when one's attention is caught by a winking log, here, may I be so bold to suggest, are a few of one's options.

1. Loud and sustained applause.
2. Saying to oneself 'Wheeee! I appear to be in some kind of cartoon!' and testing that suppostion by trying to make portable holes, painting railway tunnels on the side of walls and seeing if trains then enter with no danger and so on.
3. Finding the nearest group of loud, feral teenagers and crying 'Lads! A rumour abounds that last night a six-pack of cheap cider fell from an overhead aeroplane and dropped, kerplunk, into the centre of the lake. Being teetotal myself, I have no desire to appley alcoholic drinks, but I do like a tidy lake, so ten pounds to the first of you scamps who gets to the centre of the lake and sort of... splashes about a bit. That's it sir, Oh, I'm sorry miss. Either way, just reach around with your hands, nice and flappy-like...'

Not chucking a half brick at it. Just because she had a baby on her, which by the way, was in a pram, and so unlikely to be in any real danger. And even if it was, the advantage of having just one single crocodile in Cornwall far outweighs the cost of yet another pink bag of shite.


Cabinet going well, nearly finished (may spill over into next week, but just tidying really. Toy-fu back soonish (apologies all those people sent here by the now-sadly-defunct Observer blog just as I'd decided to give it a break to get the book finished).

Back Sundayish.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Snives

Right, I'm off to combat the terrifying carnivorous seagulls of St. Ives* with one hand, while I try and finish the book with the other. Behave yourselves. I don't want muddly footprints*** all over my site when I get back.




* In D&D terms, a monster with a Challenge Rating of 4, Attacks: beak +6, flappy feet +3 and a ranged area effect weapon you really don't want to be on the wrong end of, even if it is supposed to be lucky. Also has skills: Sense Pasty** and, Mob Tourist. Varient 5 hit dice Dire Seagull with Carry Off Small Child rumoured to exist, as yet only a rumour.

** That was originally misspelled as Sense Past, which gave the nice image of a seagull constantly experiencing other people's flashbacks, like being trapped in one of the duller episodes of Lost.

*** Another spelling mistake, to be honest. But yes, somehow once again more evocative and interesting than what I actually meant. Humbling.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Raised coffee = Writer's Salute

Very sad to hear of the death of Helen Cresswell, creator of the Lizzie Dripping books (which I foolishly never read because they were clearly girl's books) and the Bagthorpe Saga, which went some way towards making me want to write by showing that everyday life can be far funnier, moving and more exciting than anything with goblins in it. I still grapple with this realization on a daily basis to be honest.

Trivia fact: look in the dedications page of one of the Bagthorpe books (can't remember which one), and you'll find the name of a certain Oriane Messina, which I didn't find out until I'd known her for a couple of years, and which immediately made me look at her with the awe and respect with which I should have looked at her anyway.

Up until I got the paper I was wallowing in the sort of hangover that can only be brought on by trying to divide three bottles of wine between two people*. I awoke with a severe headache, nausea and an Unexplained Injury (an interesting bruise on my upper right arm), that was sadly not brought about by some kind of frolicking-based activity with another person, as my fellow drinker was my closest friend who I've known since I was about fourteen, and who because she's a girl, I conscientiously walked home the five hundred yards round the corner, that being the full extent of my chivalry when hopelessly pissed.

The route back however, does take my past the corner of Kimberley Park populated by the Bushes In Which Things Happen, so the only explanation is that something jumped out and punched me, without me noticing.

Anyway, I've sobered up now, on every level, so I'm going to have some posh coffee courtesy of Agent Sarah, and get on with work. Sad news though.




*The true level of my pissedness can perhaps be ascertained by the fact that I was watching Sahara and at one point clearly remember shouting 'This is the best film I've ever seen in my life!'.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Son of Thunderwolff

I'm not actually off to Snives (say it in one word, like Snozzle (St Austell) and Snagnes (St Agnes)) til Saturday, so I'm around a few days yet, you lucky sexy bitches (see? I can't do it).

Slightly random update: This made me laugh.

Danny Stack has his first (very) short film 'On The Death Of His Wife available for viewing by Windows Media or Real Media. He's described it as 'no-budget' and for a writer's first film, it's admirably dialogue-free. Certainly worth a look.

This link to Triumphs and Tribulations of a Victorian-Era Superhero by way of thanking Evans for providing free accommodation in London last work, and being sparkling company as ever. She also snuck me into a preview screening of Land of the Dead, which oddly enough looks more like a mid-Eighties John Carpenter film than any actual mid-Eighties John Carpenter film ever made. A bit disappointing, frankly, apart from one fantastic shot at the end, where (spoilerish alert) the head zombie leads his people out of the abandoned city across a walkway, the whole thing seen in silhouette. I don't know who set up that shot, but it makes all the rest worth sitting through.

Watched a bit of Love Soup last night, but I'm afraid the moment it became apparent that Tamsin's character's love interest was an American Man, I was possessed by a monstrous spitting fury and had to go and do something else instead. Rather unfair on American Men, who I'm sure are all lovely, but I can't stand dramas that seem to have one flirtatious eye on US telly, like a rather cheap hoor winking a gammy eye at a man not only out of her league but also very clearly gay. Let it go. If you write good stuff, they'll buy it.

Oh dear god, have I just tried to give advice to David Renwick? I think I'd better have a lie down**.

Also, it seemed a bit slow. Still, other than that it looks great, and anyone more rational than me (so everyone then), should go and watch it.*




*Think I got away with that.

**Also I just called all of UK TV a cheap whore. And said that US TV was gay. Whee! Blogging is fun.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I've actually said 'crikey'. In real life.

Fantastic screenwriting blog, and it's only been going two months. He can swear properly too, which is something I've dabbled with but never been able to pull off. When I get drunk I sound like Emma Thompson, and when I swear, I sound like, well, Emma Thompson, swearing. It's an odd thing.

The only bad thing about the blog is the white writing on a black background, which has the same effect as when you've been to the optician's when you're about thirteen and she shines that light in your eyes, and says 'now look over my shoulder', and you can smell her hair, and later on stagger out into the street blinded by what you think might be love, but turns out to be slightly singed corneas.

Agent Sarah sent me a pack of extremely high-quality ground coffee, to get me through the final two weeks of finishing the book, for which she too will forever have a special place in my heart. I was aiming for the end of September, but that's not going to happen, so I've booked a small flat in St. Ives for the first week in October so I can be away from all distractions, and write the crap out of it. I'm sort of at the two-thirds mark, but I'm not entirely clear what that mark is, as there's about three plot points that mark the final third of the book, and if I was cleverer, I'd have made them all take place at the same time, in the same room, but I'm not, so I didn't. Goshdarnit.

I will however be breaking my self-imposed artistic exile after... one day. To play Dungeons and Dragons (in a place called Mount Hawke, which sounds appropriately like a huge brooding castle, perched on the edge of a demon-haunted moor, and strangely enough, that's exactly what it is*). One of the guys who plays is a policeman, and last night had the added bonus that he came straight after work, and sat there in full uniform rolling dice while his radio rattled off details of minor rural crimes. It was like a particularly good Big Train sketch, and at one point I had to go into the kitchen and quietly hug myself with glee. At least I assume it was straight after work. Maybe one of the other players needed to be kept under observation or something, making it the least subtle stakeout in the history of the world. Hmm.



Celebrity Gamers. None of them come as a shock particularly, apart from Faruzia Balk, who I've always rather like, being slightly partial to a Wonky Mouth. Bruce Willis plays Warhammer, too. Seriouslah.

I'm going to have some more coffee now. Wheeee!





*It's not really, obviously. It's a small village composed principally of outdoor** garages and rhodedendrons.

** All right, detached garages. Garages on their own. Garages, to quote Izzard, with no fixed portfolio.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More laundry

London was fun. Not sure what's going to happen from various meetings, but I got to look at impressive bits of CGI and say 'ooh' quite a lot. And I meant it too. Spent most of the journey back on the train wishing I'd gone into animation instead of stupid stupid writing, but cheered up when I remembered that I'd looked at animation courses back in year nineteen umpty-three, and they'd all looked like quite hard work.

On the other hand, you get to turn up to people from television channels, pop a silvery disc in a slot, let them watch brightly coloured things move, and then say 'cash please, if you want to see more where that came from, unmarked notes, we'll send the lads round as usual.' As opposed to sending in a script, which relies on people taking a chance, using their imagination, or as mostly happens in my case NEVER GETTING BACK TO ME EVER. In the words of that bloke from that film - 'Fuck y'all'.

Not you though. You're okay.

Crumpled shirt issues at the hotel (I own about seven linen shirts, and it occured to me the other day that instead of just buying different colours, I should maybe think about, you know, wearing them occasionally), which lead to this fab conversation with Yuri and the attractive Eastern European girl on the reception desk. I know it may seem as if I exaggerate sometimes for dramatic effect, but I promise, in this case, not.

INT. HOTEL RECEPTION - DAY

ME: Is there anywhere here I can iron a shirt?

YURI looks at me as if I'm mad, for at least ten seconds, which doesn't sound like much, but try it. It's a long time.

ME: (weakly) No?

YURI: There is the laundry room.

ME: Can I iron my shirt in there?

YURI: We have an ironing board.

ME: (because I've talked to Yuri before) Is there an iron in there as well?

ANOTHER LONG PAUSE

YURI: No.

AEEGOR: We had one.

YURI: We did have one. But we no longer have one.

AEEGOR: Because of the fire.

YURI: Yes. there was a fire.

In the end, I go two doors down to another hotel I occasionally stay in, which I am convinced is also run by the Russian mafia, which I know has an ironing board and iron set up in a downstairs hallway.

ME: Hello. I occasionally stay in your fine hotel. Tonight I am not staying in your fine hotel, but I wish to use your ironing facilities. I will use them briefly, and then I will be gone.

PIETR: Are you staying here tonight?

ME: No, but I'd like to use your iron anyway.

PIETR: Fine.

I iron my shirt, and on the way out, tip Pietr a two-pound coin. I enjoy this, because both the act of tipping and the heaviness of the coin make me feel like a victorian man in a book.

I return to my other hotel, bear in mind less than two minutes later, with a freshly-ironed shirt over one arm, and I confess, a certain bounce in my step, as (to move my metaphor on by at least one king) Bertie Wooster would have upon the defeat of a particularly virulent aunt.

YURI and ATTRACTIVE EASTERN EUROPEAN GIRL ON RECEPTION are quite literally agog. Here is a man who left their establishment with a crumpled shirt and returned moments later with an ironed shirt. I suspect this has never happened before.

And this is my favourite bit, because it's true.

YURI: Sir, where are you from?

ME: (slightly carelessly) Cornwall. And yourself?

YURI: Sir, I am a Greek Cypriot.

ME: (to ATTRACTIVE EASTERN EUROPEAN GIRL ON RECEPTION): What about you?

AEEGOR: I am Spanish.

ME: Oh.



I need to travel more. Or maybe less.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Furious shrieking anger, for approx 30 secs, then it passed.

Yes, the blog is a tad sparse at the moment, I know that, and I can barely sleep for worry, but I'm just trying to finish my book. Which I will be attempting to continue to write while I tart myself around the countryside like an great hoor for various meetings over the next couple of days, so if anything urgent comes up, I'm on mobile.

If you don't have my mobile, but are a highly respected film director who has picked up on the frankly understandable buzz surrounding m'scripts and wish to talk, go to steinplays.com. Gilliam would be good, I hear he's on a tightrope at the moment, projectswise. Spielberg, Lucas, no. Either of the Scotts - always. You know that. George Armitage? You'd be great for my superhero thing. I'm willing to invest in you. Call me.

Apropos of nothing, that 'Goal' thing has the wonderful wonderful aura of something that's going to fail like a huge stinky thing. A three film trilogy about football? Directed by Danny Cannon? It's going to be rubbish, isn't it? So no more weekend supplement stories about it while my back's turned, mmkay? Ta.

In the meantime, here's a great article about the US religious right that gives you even more reasons to be scared than before (huzzah), but also even more reasons to find people who are seriously considering going on an Alpha course and slapping them until they recover (huzzah). It's all the same thing. I'm sorry, but it is.*

Here are some boxes

And some lesbian pulp fiction cover art.


*A bit random, I know, but I saw a poster for the Alpha course today and it made me want to curl my hands into manly fists and shout and shout and shout and shout.**



** trademark repeat courtesy of GW Richard.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

He-Man sings a song

Oh dear god.

Just to make it clear, I have absolutely no nostalgia for mid-eighties cartoons. Silly singing however, slays me every time. It's a weakness.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Exactly the video I would have made...

... for new Sigur Ros track Glosoli.

Meetings 2

Oh look, it's the same as the earlier one, but in a much posher surrounding. Marble walls and unicorns or something. I dunno, write your own.

Much more interesting, is the recent compilation of nomenclatures from Cornish censuses stretching back to the 16th century. If I was writing the kind of children's book that required oh-so-hilarious names, I would be jealously hoarding this intel as though it were a chest o' precious gems. But I'm not, so here are my favourites, in no particular order:

Abraham Thunderwolff
Freke Dorothy Fluck Lane
Elizabeth Disco
Edward Evil
Offspring Gurney

and finally,

Gentle Fudge

The Falmouth Packet titled this gorgeous slice of gorgeousness, with the same sensibility that brought the world 'The Bushes: What's Going In Them' , 'Really Strange Cornish Names'. And I can't bring myself to argue.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Meetings 1

It really is autumn now (sorry about that), and the air is thick with the smell of bonfires, squirrels and meetings. Both Ori and Danny have recently written about meetings, Ori laying bare the searing insights into the human soul that arise when more than two GW writers get together, Danny explaining the varying time scales of film meetings and their implications.

The strangest meetings of all tend to be actual television channel executive meetings. Mainly because the channels (and correct me if I'm wrong) tend to commission producers rather than writers. Which gives any meeting I've had with executives from the major television channels a slightly bewildered air, as both of us try with the utmost tact to find out what the other one actually does.

The tone of these meetings will also depend greatly on the status of the person in whose office you are meeting. Unlike big LA film companies, where the lowliest post boy hires himself an office and wears suits he has recently mugged off a minor Scorsese (Nick Cage), in Britain it's reasonably easy to tell what end of the scale you're encountering. Hence:

INT. OFFICE - DAY

Door creaks open, tearing a thin curtain of spiderwebs. The office is dark. There are no windows, and the bulbs have long ago been taken away by senior management.

A thin white hand stretches out from under a solitary three-legged desk, covered in the bones of small animals.

VOICE: (hisses) Did you bring the biscuits?

ME: Um, is the right place? I had a meeting at three-

VOICE: Biscuits!

Fortunately, I managed to pick up some Peek Freans on the way. I slide them towards the hand, careful not to go too far from the door. The arm extends (surely too far, and too long) and the biscuits vanish. Munching ensues, and the packet is suddenly spat out into the air.

ME: Right. So, about my Romey loves Jools script....

VOICE: You must leave now.

ME: Bloody hell, I came all the way from Cornwall for this!

(Always work the catchphrases. You never know)

VOICE: Soon, he will come. The murderer of comedy...

ME: (alarmed) DELETES NAME OF HIGHLY RESPECTED TELEVISION EXECUTIVE HE'LL BE MEETING IN THREE DAYS*

VOICE: Yes.

ME: Oh bollocks.

VOICE: I tell you this because of the biscuits.

ME: Okay, thanks.

I get up and leave, closing the door behind me. Behind me I hear the sudden scuttle of a mouse, a scrabble of claws and a high pitched keen of victory. Back to Cornwall for me.


.... is the lower end of the scale. I'll do the top end tomorrow.


* actually Jon Plowman, who turned out to be perfectly charming and encouraging. Turned down my script though.